Thursday , October 31 2019

Jonjoe Kenny reaping the rewards of Schalke loan after stepping out of Everton comfort zone

For the majority of young footballers, being sent out on loan by your boyhood club can seem like a daunting task so early on in their career.

Out of their comfort zone and thrown into the deep unknown away from their loved ones and friends – it can make or break a career at such a tender age.

For Everton youngster Jonjoe Kenny, he has gone one step further than most, changing country and adapting to a whole new culture to develop both as a player and a person.

Jonjoe Kenny has been flying at Schalke after joining on a season-long loan from Everton

Kenny won Bundesliga Rookie of the Month for August after bursting onto the German scene

Kenny won Bundesliga Rookie of the Month for August after bursting onto the German scene

So far, it has been a success story and Bundesliga outfit Schalke are those reaping the rewards from the 22-year-old right-back’s one-year loan spell. 

Other than brief loan stints at Wigan and Oxford, the born-and-bred Liverpudlian had not ventured outside of Merseyside since joining Everton’s academy back in 2006 at the age of nine.

But after struggling to make the cut in Everton’s first-team, Kenny made the bold leap from the Premier League to the Bundesliga to enhance his long-term chances at Goodison Park.  

‘I lived in Oxford for five months in a hotel,’ Kenny told The Athletic regarding his loan to the club during the 2015-16 campaign. ‘It was a good move for me, but it was in the UK and living in a hotel you don’t have to do much. You just lie on your bed.

‘But here, I’m living on my own in an apartment where you have to pay bills, cook food, clean and shop for groceries. You have to do these things yourself and so this move wasn’t just about on the pitch, it’s also helping me grow as a person off it.

‘I used to struggle being on my own when I was younger. I was a kid who couldn’t keep still and couldn’t sit on my own; I needed someone with me. When I first came, my dad stayed with me for a week in the hotel and my family still come out a lot. But when I’m on my own I love it. I feel that here I’m living like a professional footballer.

Kenny has been developing under the guidance of former Huddersfield boss David Wagner

Kenny has been developing under the guidance of former Huddersfield boss David Wagner

The 22-year-old right-back has already tested himself against some of Europe's biggest teams

The 22-year-old right-back has already tested himself against some of Europe’s biggest teams

‘When I’m in Liverpool I finish football and I’m like a normal lad, going for a Nando’s or to Costa with the lads. Here I’m going home, I’m putting recovery pants on, having a cup of tea and watching telly, and that’s me.

‘I think I’m feeling the benefits of relaxing and not moving. Doing what a footballer should do: train, eat, rest, sleep. That routine. I went back for a few days during the international break but I was glad to get back here. I love my apartment. I’m playing every week. You can’t really beat that feeling.’ 

While Kenny – who takes three German lessons after training every week – continues to adapt to a complete change in scenery in Gelsenkirchen, he has certainly flourished on the pitch under the guidance of former Huddersfield manager David Wagner.

Kenny has taken inspiration from Germany icon and Bayern Munich legend Philipp Lahm as he looks to make a name for himself among Europe’s elite.

‘He was an all-rounder, could play left, right, in the middle,’ said Kenny regarding the World Cup and Champions League-winning star. ‘For me, he was always outstanding and the best right-back.’

But while there is a massive road ahead of him to emulate Lahm, Kenny hasn’t shown any sign of nerves – playing the full 90 minutes in Schalke’s seven Bundesliga fixtures so far this season, scoring once and producing two assists. 

Kenny has admitted Bayern Munich and Germany icon Philipp Lahm is his role model

Kenny has admitted Bayern Munich and Germany icon Philipp Lahm is his role model

The young English full-back has been flying down the flanks so far, but one moment in particular really got supporters talking and it came in unlikely fashion. 

Kenny’s only Bundesliga strike was a moment to savour, rounding off a comfortable 3-0 victory over Hertha Berlin late on by drilling home into the bottom corner first-time after running onto a pass on the edge of the box. He had announced himself in style.

His surging form led to him being named Bundesliga’s Rookie of the Month for August (an award voted by fans, clubs and pundits) – following in the footsteps of now England international and Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho. 

He has quickly become a fan favourite at the Veltins-Arena, playing in front of a 63,000-capacity stadium, and Wagner has more than appreciated his impact after taking a huge step out of his comfort zone.  

‘I had a good picture of Jonjoe and, after I joined Schalke, we all together agreed that we had to sign a right-back’, Wagner said.

The Englishman has already become a fan favourite at the Veltins-Arena since his loan move

The Englishman has already become a fan favourite at the Veltins-Arena since his loan move

‘As soon as I found that we were not able to afford someone to buy because of our financial restrictions, Jonjoe was one of the first names I put on the table when I discussed with our board. Luckily, they agreed to try to sign him and luckily he decided to join our football club.

‘I can tell you what, he is already close to becoming a fan favourite here in our stadium. He has done an amazing job so far and scored a wonderful goal against [Hertha] Berlin. He is, for sure, one of the best signings which we have made this summer.’ 

Kenny has already played against some of Europe’s big teams, including Bayern and RB Leipzig, helping his side to a statement 3-1 victory away at the latter prior to the international break.

He has been a mainstay in the Royal Blues’ season so far, helping his side claim 14 points from their opening seven games – just two behind surprise leaders Borussia Monchengladbach in what was is an extremely bunched up Bundesliga table.

The Liverpudlian has struggled to force his way into Everton's first-team plans of late

The Liverpudlian has struggled to force his way into Everton’s first-team plans of late

It goes as far as saying that Kenny has in fact been one of Everton’s standout players so far this season despite not having kicked a ball for Marco Silva’a side.

While Everton struggle in the Premier League, Kenny’s stock is starting to rise – albeit perhaps not in the way he planned – and he is already putting himself back in the frame at Goodison Park ahead of the 2020-21 campaign. 

With Seamus Coleman getting no younger and Djibril Sidibe struggling for match time after signing on loan from Monaco, Kenny has the chance to seize the initiative and impress the Everton hierarchy at the highest level in the German top-flight. 

And what better way to mark his time in the Bundesliga than helping Schalke get back to the top echelons of the game. After missing out on Champions League football at the end of last season, the club have one goal in mind.  

But Kenny’s ambitions reach much wider than that. While his sole focus is Schalke in the short-term, breaking into Everton’s first-team remains his biggest dream. 

Kenny's dream remains to enjoy a long career for boyhood club Everton, who he joined in 2006

Kenny’s dream remains to enjoy a long career for boyhood club Everton, who he joined in 2006